Dr Paolo Fortis
Paolo Fortis is a social anthropologist with research interests in the relations between art, ontology, notions of the person and alterity among Central and South American indigenous peoples. He obtained his PhD from the University of St Andrews in 2008 with a dissertation on woodcarving and healing among Kuna people living in the San Blas Archipelago of Panama.
His monograph Kuna Art and Shamanism: An Ethnographic Approach explores Kuna anthropomorphic carvings in the context of the everyday life, focusing on the interplay between material and bodily practices, ecology, myth, the life cycle and the visual system. The book argues that studying art ethnographically provides a powerful perspective to look into a people’s ideas of what it is to be human, thereby considering art and aesthetics as categories of experience.
He was Guest Curator at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich for the exhibition Mola – Crafting Beauty and Layering the World – in Panama (26 Nov 2015 - 4 Sep 2016): http://www.musethno.uzh.ch/static/guna/
Paolo is currently working on a new project that explores the use of military metaphors and imagery in ritual chants and visual art in the context of the long-standing relationship between the Kuna and North American army previously based in the Panama Canal Zone.
Department of Anthropology
- Amerindian societies
- Anthropology of art
- Myth and history
- Social change
- Fortis, P. (2012). Kuna Art and Shamanism: An Ethnographic Approach. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.
- Fortis, Paolo & Kuchler, Susanne (2021). Time and Its Object: A Perspective from Amerindian and Melanesian Societies on the Temporality of Images. Routlege.
- Fortis, P. & Praet, I. (2011). The Archaeological Encounter. Anthropological Perspectives. Occasional publication, 33. St. Andrews: Centre for Amerindian, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of St Andrews.
Chapter in book
- Fortis, P & Kuchler, S (2021). Biographical Relations in Amerindian and Melanesian Societies. In Time and Its Object: A Perspective from Amerindian and Melanesian Societies on the Temporality of Images. Routledge. 129-147.
- Fortis, P & Kuchler, S (2021). Introduction. In Time and Its Object: A Perspective from Amerindian and Melanesian Societies on the Temporality of Images. Fortis, P & Kuchler, S Routledge. 1-20.
- Fortis, P. (2018). Iconography and Style. In The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Callan, H. Wiley & Sons.
- Fortis, P. (2017). Corpo e Persona tra i Guna (Kuna) di Panama. In Corpi Sciamanici: La Nozione di Persona nello Studio dello Sciamanesimo. Botta, S. & Ferrara, M. Edizioni Nuova Cultura. 4: 299-319.
- Fortis, P. & Margiotti, M. (2015). Designs, Skills and Objects in Guna Life. In Crafting Beauty and Layering the World in Panama. Flitsch, Mareile Zurich: Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich. 19-29.
- Overing, J., Fortis, P. & Margiotti, M. (2015). Kinship in Anthropology. In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. Wright, J.D. Oxford: Elsevier. 36-43.
- Fortis, P. (2015). Smoking Tobacco and Swinging the Chicha: On Different Modes of Sociality among Guna ('Kuna') People. In The Master Plant: Tobacco in Lowland South America. Russell, A. & Rahman, E. London: Bloomsbury. 199-214.
- Fortis, P. (2014). Artefacts and Bodies among Kuna People from Panamá. In Making and Growing: Anthropological Studies of Organisms and Artefacts. Hallam, E. & Ingold, T. Ashgate. 89-106.
- Fortis, P. (2011). Nuchu and kwaríp: Images of Past in Central and South America. In The Archaeological Encounter. Anthropological Perspectives. Fortis, P. & Praet, I. University of St. Andrews (Centre for Amerindian, Latin American and Caribbean Studies). 33: 204-235.
- Fortis, P. (2021). On the Multiple Temporalities of Guna Woodcarving. Cahiers d'Anthropologie Sociale 19: 107-123.
- Fortis, P (2019). The aesthetics of 'time-reckoning': a Guna chromatic history. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 25(3): 441-466.
- Fortis, P. (2017). Comment on 'Moral Sources and the Reproduction of the Amazonian Package' by Carlos David Londoño Sulkin. Current Anthropology 58(4): 489-490.
- Fortis, P. (2016). General MacArthur among the Guna: The Aesthetics of Power and Alterity in an Amerindian Society. Current Anthropology 57(4): 430-451.
- Fortis, P. (2013). O Nascimento do Desenho: uma Teoria Kuna do Corpo e da Pessoa. Enfoques 12(1): 66-93.
- Fortis, P. (2012). Images of person in an Amerindian society. An ethnographic account of Kuna woodcarving. Journal de la société des américanistes 98(1): 7-37.
- Fortis, P. (2010). The Birth of Design: a Kuna Theory of Body and Personhood. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 16(3): 480-495.
- Fortis, P. (2009). Nuchukana. Entalhe em madeira entre os Kuna do Panamá. Tellus 17: 279-289.
Indicators of Esteem
- 2017: :
Winner of the J.B. Donne Essay Prize on the Anthropology of Art (Royal Anthropological Institute) with the title 'The aesthetics of "time-reckoning": a Guna chromatic history'
- 2019 - present: Chair of the Anthropology of Art Committee of the Royal Anthropological Institute:
- 2019 - present: Member of the Endangered Material Knowledge Programme panel:
- 2014: Seedcorn Grant (Durham University) - General MacArthur Among the Kuna: Representations of Military Power in an Amerindian Tradition